First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Fox Petty-Squabble flopped onto the sofa in the penthouse suite of the Neverwinkle Hotel. It was the summer holidays – or at least it was supposed to be – but rather than heading to the seaside, or relaxing with a barbeque in their garden, the Petty-Squabble family had descended upon the sleepy village of Mizzlegurg in the Bavarian countryside for a business trip.

Any ideas?

If you’ve read the wonderful Rumblestar, the first book in The Unmapped Chronicles series, you’ll probably have guessed this book from the incredibly inventive names! I was lucky enough to get a proof copy so am really looking forward to reading this one soon.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The second novel in Abi Elphinstone’s new series, The Unmapped Chronicles, takes readers to the magical kingdom of Jungledrop! A breath-taking adventure story, that’s also about being kind – to others, to our planet and, perhaps hardest of all, to ourselves.

Review: Starfell Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale

Published by Harper Collins
Published on 2nd April
Illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Oh, me greedy aunt!  Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale is an utterly glorious return to Starfell, following on from the first in this spell-binding series, Willow Moss and the Lost Day.  It is a story which completely enchanted me from start to finish with its magical world-building, warm humour, action-packed plot and truly wonderful characters.

Willow Moss, a young witch with the ability to find lost things, receives a leaf-mail letter from her friend, Nolin Sometimes, to tell her that he will be kidnapped in less than ten minutes!  No problem!  Willow can find lost things!  Problem?  Willow is having some difficulty with her magic and things are more likely to disappear than appear!

Willow seeks help from her much more powerful family but, unfortunately, they think she is being delusional as they can’t remember anything that happened during the Lost Day – a Tuesday to be precise – you’ll need to read the first brilliant book, Willow Moss and the Lost Day to find out more!  Please do – it’s a brilliant read too!

A rather unsupportive family can’t hold Willow back for long.  She is a very loyal friend and one very determined and brave young girl, so she sets out with her best friend Oswin, the cat – I mean, kobold – to get help from the most powerful witch, Moreg Vaine.  Things don’t go quite according to plan and so begins an incredible adventure with new and old friends, an adventure brimming with discoveries, dangers and twists – and a bathtub boat! The plot really is just so very clever:  it twists and turns as it wanders through Starfell and into a dark new land where a sinister enemy awaits … but will it be too late to save Nolin?

The world-building is truly superb with gorgeously rich and beautiful description, painting a world that completely fascinated me from the Tower to Wisperia to Netherfell to Library!  Oh Library! I so want to visit Library! Living in this world are a brilliant assortment of both new and known characters who enchant, endear and frighten … reading this story really does feel like greeting old friends again, and getting to know new ones. 

And then there is Willow … she is an incredibly endearing young girl:  she is dealing both with her own grief, and her family’s lack of faith in her, yet she doesn’t let this deter her from immediately going to the aid of her friend.  She is kind-hearted, courageous even when overcome with fear and incredibly resilient.  She has a real sense of justice and fairness and engenders deep loyalty and friendship from others.  Willow is willing to put her faith in others, and is tolerant of differences.  What a completely amazing young girl who is a brilliant role model for younger readers.

It felt wrong to mistrust someone just because they were a little different.

And then there is Oswin … I NEED to dedicate a whole paragraph to Oswin who is my absolute favourite animal character – ever!  He is DEFINITELY not a cat (although he does look rather like one – just don’t tell him I said so!) and he’s just brilliant:  sharp-witted, hilarious with the best one-liners and a rare talent for insults – with an interesting turn of phrase!  He even has his own Oswin to English Dictionary, but I’m such a fan, I didn’t need it as I TOTALLY understood him!  Despite his tetchiness, he is deliciously adorable, and an incredibly loyal friend.  Fear and complaints may be ever present, but he always comes through when needed.  I SO want an Oswin! 

Sarah Warburton’s illustrations are stunningly glorious – from the dustjacket to the hardback cover to the black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the book!  I mean, they really are just incredible:  a perfect complement to a perfect story!

Everyone, regardless of age, should treat themselves to this heart-warming, enchanting story filled with adventure, warmth and humour:  a treasure of a story that sparkles with a special kind of magic that captures and holds the reader under its spell!

Thank you to the publisher Harper Collins and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.  I have also bought a signed hardback book which was released slightly earlier than the publication date of 2nd April.

Review: Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver

Published on 2nd April
Published by Zephyr (an imprint of Head of Zeus)

Viper’s Daughter is an astoundingly rich, immersive and thrilling adventure that utterly gripped me from start to finish, skilfully drawing me into the Stone Age world with characters I adored, feared and feared for.  This is a stunning masterpiece of powerful, evocative storytelling at its absolute best:  it swept me into the world, enthralled me, emotionally drained me but, ultimately, left me wholly satisfied.

The story opens right in the heart of a terrible discovery:  Torak’s mate, Renn, has deceived him, and has left him and her wolf-pack behind.  Even though he is angry and hurt, he is determined to find her as she is his life, so begins a journey from his Forest home to the Far North and the very Edge of the World in search of Renn and the truth … a journey laden with palpable tension, heart-stopping danger, seeming betrayal and incredible revelations.

Torak is not alone on this journey:  his pack-brother, Wolf is a constant companion.  Wolf and Torak have an incredibly close bond, being able to communicate with each other.  Whilst Torak does not want Wolf to leave his mate and cubs, Wolf cannot bear to be separated from Torak, so he makes the ultimate sacrifice:  leaving his mate and cubs behind for their safety whilst he journeys with Torak, willing to take great risks to defend him, even when he does not fully understand the choices and decisions that Torak makes:  theirs is a powerful instinctive bond, steeped in great love for each other which I found very moving.

Renn is running from Torak as she fears that, if she stays with him, she will be the cause of his death, and this she couldn’t bear.  She is forced to inflict great emotional pain on Torak in order to protect him.  The emotional turmoil she suffers, and the hardship she bears, as she journeys to find answers is heart-breaking. 

Whilst on her journey, she dreams of her mother, the Viper Mage:  is she warning her of danger, or leading her towards it?  Renn is unwittingly drawn into the machinations of a great evil that tears her and Torak apart again and again, and threatens to unleash great harm on the world:  will she realise the awful deception that has been played on her before it is too late?  

The world-building is superb and multi-layered, giving a fascinating insight into the landscape, the belief system and the lifestyle of the Stone Age clans.  There is so much depth to this world that I really felt a part of it whilst I was in the story:  it gave me the opportunity to assimilate the culture and deepen my understanding of this engrossing pre-historical period.  The majesty and harshness of the frozen, untamed landscape was viscerally provoked; the depiction of the lifestyle of the different Clans felt incredibly authentic; and, the invocation of the Clan belief system, with its affinity with animal spirits, captured me wholeheartedly. 

The relationship between Renn and Torak tore at my heartstrings: witnessing their anguish, and what they had to endure was heart-breaking, and honestly brings more tears as I write.  I am in awe of their strength, courage and resilience, and of their unfailing commitment to keep the other safe no matter the cost.

Viper’s Daughter is undoubtedly a triumph:  a compelling, emotive adventure into an ancient, fascinating past which captured me from the opening lines. 

Thank you to Zephyr and ed public relations for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

My reading has been very poor this week. I’m adapting to a completely new style of teaching, and going in to school on rota to look after key workers’ children. I’m really missing my class – even more so after they’ve been sending me lots of wonderful pictures and videos of them helping out with cooking. I’m just about to start Crater Lake which I know I’m going to love.

I’ve finished reading Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale which was just magical. Oswin’s grouchiness and insults are just what I needed! I’m writing up my review, and will post in a day or so.

I’ve really been enjoying reading middle-grade sci-fi, so I’m going to read Troofriend next which I’ve read super reviews about.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

YA Review: A Treason of Thorns

Published by Chicken House
Published on 5th March 2020 (paperback)
Cover & Interior Design: Helen Crawford-White

A Treason of Thorns is a completely absorbing, magical read with a beautifully lyrical style which swept me into its enchantment from the start.

As a young child, Violet witnesses the incarceration of her father and best friend in her beloved home, Burleigh House, one of the six Great Houses of England all of which have a magical power which has been bound to the King.  Her father, its Caretaker, commits an act of treason against the Crown in attempting to unbind his House hence leading to his incarceration and death. 

News of his death brings seventeen-year-old Violet back to Burleigh House which is in desperate decline and in danger of losing control of its magic and unleashing it into the surrounding countryside, causing devastation.  This leads her into a desperate attempt to save it from destruction, throwing herself into great danger as she risks everything to save the House, a House she loves, but at what cost to herself?

The premise of this story is utterly fascinating as Violet has an intense symbiotic bond with the House which at times is laced with an insidious darkness edging on parasitic which kept me on tenterhooks throughout.  Violet’s love and loyalty towards the House is all-encompassing – almost!  On her return to Burleigh, she is reunited with her childhood best friend Wyn.  Childhood feelings develop into much more as Violet fights to save the house and Wyn fights to protect her from the House’s magic.  Together with Wyn and the most unlikely but wonderful allies, Violet embarks on the continuation of her father’s plan to save Burleigh, but will her fate be any different to her father’s?

Violet is a truly wonderful protagonist.  She is determined to save the House to which she is devoted:  a House whose pain and rage she feels, whose memories she watches, whose magic she absorbs.  She shows admirable strength, courage and intuitiveness in defending it against the machinations of the King who is determined to control or destroy it.  However, she also struggles with her loyalty towards the House as she makes uncomfortable discoveries; as she is forced to make impossible choices; and as her heart is pulled in two different directions.  This bittersweet need to reconcile her two great loves leads to divided loyalties and makes for some very poignant moments.

A Treason of Thorns is a wonderfully original and enchanting story which completely enthralled me as I was immersed in the magic, danger and love which seeped from its pages.

Thank you to the publishers, Chicken House Books, for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  It asks three questions:

1.      What are you currently reading?

2.      What did you recently finish reading?

3.      What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading the gorgeous Starfell Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale which I am really enjoying. I’d forgotten how absolutely adorable Oswin is! This is definitely the perfect book to take my mind off all the other things that are going on at the minute!

I’ve only managed to read one book this week, but it was a good one! The House of Hidden Wonders is such an intriguing read with the most wonderful cast of strong female characters – and sinister villains! I absolutely loved this one!

My signed pre-order of Crater Lake arrived this week, so I’m going to read it next. I’ve read so many good reviews of this one, so I’m looking forward to it – although might need to sleep with the lights on afterwards.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: Slugboy Saves the World

Published by Kelpies
Publication Date: 20th October 2016
Illustrator: Darren Gate

Slugboy Saves the World is a fantastically fun-filled treat of a book which I absolutely loved, giggling my way throughout this action-packed comic-style hilarious adventure – with heart!  The narrator of the story is brilliant – someone who definitely kept me entertained with witty, sharp comments throughout!

Murdo McLeod is not your typical superhero!  His superpowers have come through the unfortunate circumstance of swallowing a radioactive slug so, needless to say, he has not been blessed with the most powerful of superhero traits, but his powers are rather unique:  he has the ability to climb up walls – very slowly (this still makes me giggle every time I read it!), and emit slime! 

Poor Murdo desperately wants to be a superhero who is helpful, and will be taken seriously by the Adventure Squad of superheroes but, unfortunately, his superpowers are more of a hindrance than a help when fighting off villains which leads to much hilarity and misunderstanding.

However, Murdo is incredibly likeable and ever an optimist, so I always found myself rooting for him, and willing him to fight off the villains successfully as he scours the streets of Dundee and Edinburgh, looking to defend the Scottish Nation from some very nasty villains – and prove himself as a worthy superhero!  I love the fact that he never gives up, even when the odds are against him … and they are often so against him!

Whilst Murdo is on a trip to Loch Ness that does not turn out as planned, he makes a discovery … a discovery that may well save the world from a supervillain when only Slugboy is on call:  will he at last be able to use his superpowers to good effect and prove himself a worthy superhero?

Slugboy Saves the World will appeal to young fans of comics and superheroes.  There is so much they will enjoy including the humour; the fast-paced action; the Bottom Trumps cards which are interspersed throughout the story and the wide range of fonts to break up the text.  Above all though, I think they will just love Murdo, aka Slugboy and enjoy following him as he heads from one disaster to another …

I know lots of children in my class who will adore this, and I’m sure it will not last long in my class library before it is snatched up for laugh-out-loud reading pleasure.

Thank you to the author, Mark A Smith, for sending me a copy in return for my honest opinion.

April Middle-Grade releases

I am a huge fan of middle-grade children’s fiction, and am continually in awe of the brilliance of these authors. As a primary school teacher, I continually see how they enrich the lives of so many children and, to be honest, they have helped me so much as they are my escape from the pressures of daily life. AND they are just so good, no matter your age!

I absolutely love sharing books with my class and read aloud to them every day. They are always keen to talk about the books I have read and to borrow them from my class library which has now over 100 books I’ve added in the last year. My favourite time of the week is Friday afternoon when the children all lie around the room on cushions, or wrap up under a throw and just enjoy reading. I also get to enjoy my book. It feels very special, and is something we all look forward to.

I agree wholeheartedly with Katherine Rundell when she says in her wonderful book Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise:

Those who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps, also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and necessary heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

I am aware from Twitter that some authors whose books are being released in April and beyond are quite understandably concerned about cancellation of publicity events and their affect on book sales, so I just want to do my bit by giving a shout-out to children’s books which are being published in April which I have already been lucky enough to read, or which I am eagerly anticipating. I will do a follow-up for books being published in May and beyond in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve kept the books in order of publication date, and used the Publisher Synopsis to give a brief overview to whet the reader’s appetite!

I have already posted a January to March anticipated releases which you can find here. The March books included are:

  • The Pear Affair by Judith Eagle (5th March)
  • Skeleton Keys The Haunting of Luna Moon by Guy Bass (author) and Pete Williamson (Illustrator) (5th March)
  • The House on Hoarder Hill by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai (5th March)
  • Potkin & Stubbs Ghostcatcher by Sophie Green (5th March)
  • Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick (19th March)

April Anticipated Releases:

Publication Date: 2nd April (there’s a LOT of fantastic books being released on this date!)

Published by Zephyr Books

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Viper’s Daughter by Michelle Paver from ed public relations, so will post my review before publication date. This is an astoundingly rich, immersive and thrilling adventure that utterly gripped me from start to finish, skilfully drawing me into the Stone Age world with characters I adored, feared and feared for. A triumph of masterful story-telling that captured me completely.

A boy. A wolf. The legend lives on. For two summers Torak and Renn have been living in the Forest with their faithful pack-brother, Wolf. But their happiness is shattered when Renn realizes Torak is in danger – and she’s the threat. When she mysteriously disappears, Torak and Wolf brave the Far North to find her. At the mercy of the Sea Mother and haunted by ravenous ice bears, their quest leads them to the Edge of the World. There they must face an enemy more evil than any they’ve encountered. Viper’s Daughter plunges you back into the Stone-Age world of Torak, Renn and Wolf: a world of demons, Hidden People and exhilarating adventure which has entranced millions of readers.

Published by Little Tiger UK

I was lucky enough to be sent an early copy of this absolutely fantastic book by Charlie at Little Tiger, so I’ll be able to post my review shortly. I’ve just finished reading it, and it completely gripped me from the intriguing prologue to the final chapters which brought that tearful release I get when I read a story that completely immerses me and keeps me in a heightened state of tension as I follow the action, caring so much for the young girls, worrying for them and admiring their strength and courage. Readers are in for a real treat with this one as it plunges you into the life of Victorian Edinburgh with THE most wonderful female characters, and dark villains with an intriguing plot, with brilliant twists.

Zinnie and her sisters live in the murky tunnels beneath Edinburgh’s Old Town. They keep out of the way of the authorities and remain undetected. Until, that is, rumours of a ghost bring unwanted visitors into the caverns they call home. Among them, a young Arthur Conan Doyle, keen to investigate, and MacDuff, the shady owner of Edinburgh’s newest attraction, the House of Wonders. Caught up in a world of intrigue and adventure, Zinnie seeks answers. But how can she discover what secrets lie in the House of Wonders while also protecting the sisters she holds so dear?

Published by Harper Collins

I was lucky enough to pick up a signed copy of this yesterday, and it will be my next read. It is the second book in the Starfell series. I have no doubt it will be just as wonderful as the first, Willow Moss and the Lost Day which I read last year and absolutely loved – especially Oswin! I’ll be able to post a review before the ‘official’ publication date.

Willow Moss, the youngest and least powerful sister in a family of witches, recently saved the world. The problem is, nobody can remember it – and, to make matters worse, her magical ability seems broken. Instead of finding lost things, objects keep disappearing against her will … which is especially troubling now that her friend Sometimes needs her help! Sometimes has discovered how to see ten minutes into the future. Unfortunately that’s only enough time to find out that his kidnappers are on their way! His only hope is to write an urgent letter to Willow, asking if she wouldn’t mind trying to find him. As Willow and her friends piece together what has happened to Sometimes, their adventure takes them from an enchanted tower to the magical forest of Wisperia and into dangerous new realms… Can Willow save Sometimes when her own powers are out of control?

Published by Nosy Crow

This is the third book in the Clifftoppers series, after Arrowhead Moor Adventure and The Fire Bay Adventure. My husband: “Oh, that is the one I would read!” Thank goodness, something has engaged him with reading – at long last!

For Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh, holidays at their grandparents’ cottage mean wild beaches, no curfew, Bella the dog, and most of all – adventure! While sailing their Grandad’s boat along the coast with her cousins, Chloe sees a terrified face at a tower window on Thorn Island. Could the face belong to recently kidnapped young George, the only child of a rich local businessman? No one they tell believes there could be a child held prisoner in the tower. So, certain that the villains are hiding out nearby, the cousins must use all their skills and cunning to conduct a daring rescue.

Published by Nosy Crow

I’ve been reading so many fantastic early reviews of this one! I’m waiting patiently for its release!

Imagine having the perfect friend, one who never steals, lies or bullies. Now you can, with the TrooFriend 560, the latest in artificial intelligence! What can go wrong with a robot buddy? Especially one that’s developing human characteristics and feelings, and who has just run away with her human?

Published by Orion Children’s Books

I absolutely loved Swimming Against the Storm with its powerful environmental message, and am really looking forward to this one.

An epic race for survival that follows four children and their dog through treacherous waterways, dense forests and the deep, dark wilderness of Wales. From author Jess Butterworth comes a beautifully written adventure story in a vibrantly described setting – perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell. One day, as Cara and her siblings are trying to clean up the canal where they live, they pull out a mysterious locked safe. Though none of them can open it, they’re sure it’s something special. That night, a thief comes after the safe. The children flee, travelling with their boat as far as they can, before continuing into the forest on foot. But soon they’re lost in the mountains with a snowstorm about to land and food supplies running low. Will Cara and her siblings be able to survive the wilderness with nothing but their wits, their bravery and one very large dog to help?

Published by Walker Books

I don’t know very much about this one, but it mentions a witch, so I’m so going to read it!

A spooky adventure set in Cornwall; Famous Five with a twist. A long-dead Cornish witch to thwart and a curse to stop – it’s just another family holiday. Orla thought she was in for a relaxing break, but when she finds a mysterious glowing necklace in the woods, it turns out there is a slight possibility she may have uncovered a witch’s ancient curse. After meeting a coven of suspicious old ladies, it becomes clear that Orla’s arrival in Cornwall is no longer a coincidence. The curse is poisoning the land and destroying everything it touches, and Orla is the one person who can stop it. But she’ll need help from the only other member of the family with good instincts – Dave the dog.

Published by Chicken House

I adored meeting Milton in the first book in the series: Milton the Mighty, and am really looking forward to his adventure in Hawaii.

Milton’s superstardom is stressing him out: the events, the glamour, the adoring fans! Secretly, Zoe, Audrey and Ralph think he’s turned into … well … a bit of a diva. So when Dad and Greta plan a trip to Hawaii, Zoe knows she has to take her best spider pals along for the ride: they all need a break. But with a live volcano, an endangered spider species, an unscrupulous entrepreneur and Milton’s ego to contend with, this is hardly a holiday …

Publication Date: 30th April

MacMillan Children’s

I adored Pippin and her friends in The Umbrella Mouse and am really looking forward to her next adventure. I have been approved to read this on NetGalley, so will be able to post a review before the publication date.

A timeless tale of courage, friendship and fighting for what you believe in, Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Anna Fargher’s award-winning The Umbrella Mouse, based on the true stories of the heroic animals caught in the conflict of WWII. Young mouse Pip Hanway is in France as she continues fighting for the French Resistance group Noah’s Ark: a secret gang of animals operating beneath the feet of human soldiers, whose aim is to liberate France and secure the victory of the Allies. Determined to reach her ancestral home of the Umbrella Museum in Italy, Pip hopes she can find long-lost family and a home. But as Pip makes the perilous journey through occupied territory, she soon realizes that danger comes from all sides and that the enemy is all around, and she does everything she can to fight for her friends. Beautifully illustrated by Sam Usher, Pip will take you on an incredible journey through a war that reaches even the smallest of creatures.

Published by Orion Children’s Books

I was lucky enough to be approved to read an early copy of this on NetGalley. Goodness, it’s good! This was a truly mesmerising, magical read which drew me into brilliantly imagined worlds with two wonderful protagonists whose relationship felt genuine and realistic.  The sense of wonder, the intricate magical system and the pervading threat of danger enthralled me … I’ll post my review closer to publication.

Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of The Train to Impossible Places and The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . . When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s

This is another one that I’ve been waiting patiently for after reading some great early reviews.

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play… Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look. Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will. When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

So, that’s me done! I have no idea why the books I want are all published on either 2nd April or 30th April – curious indeed! Of course, I’m likely to find other books over the course of the month which I’ll pick up too! And I’m always happy for recommendations.

My aim is to read any of these I’ve been lucky enough to get an early copy of prior to publication, so I can give them a shout-out with a review prior to or on publication. I will buy the others as close to publication as I can, read and then review. I will also be sharing these books with as many children in school as I can, and will include them in our next Parents’ Reading Newsletter. I have a huge appreciation for children’s authors and hope this goes some small way to help publicise all these wonderful books.

Review: Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar CATastrophe

Published by Hodder Children’s Books
Published on 5th March
Illustrated by Nick East

Toto The Ninja Cat and the Superstar CATastrophe will certainly appeal to its young audience.  Two of our Year 3 classes have already chosen it as their Book Raffle prize – and the books I purchased for them arrived with gorgeous keyrings (see image).  Visually, it is CATcredibly appealing with the use of a larger font and bold capitalised lettering which will absolutely engage and appeal to the reader as will the use of the cutest pawprints throughout and, of course, the many gorgeous bold and distinctive black-and-white illustrations by Nick East which are an absolutely perfect complement to the story.

Toto is a member of the Ancient Order of International Ninja Cats, a secret organisation, who is a master at fighting crime, and on her seventh mission. Following yet another success, her friend Catface feels that she deserves a well-earned break, so treats her and her brother Silver to tickets for the best music festival in the animal world: Catstonbury. What could possibly go wrong?

Whilst on the train to the festival, they meet the lead singer of the headlining band, Jonny and the Shorthairs. He is arrogant, full of himself, adores adulation and, of course, can’t help trying to better the ninja cat – most unsuccessfully! Has Toto made an enemy before she arrives at the festival?

Understandably, Toto is rather surprised when she arrives at the festival to be called to the tent of Jonny by one of his security guards. Jonny tells her that he needs her help as he is certain someone is out to get him: could this be true, or is it more likely to be a figment of his egocentric imagination? Either way, Toto feels obliged to protect him under the Ninja Code. But, has she taken on more than even she can cope with as an evil villain is intent on using the festival for his own dastardly plan? Danger, excitement and CAT-tastic daring and adventure ensue as Toto and her friends attempt to foil the villain …

Toto is almost totally blind but in no way lets this define her, or hold her back from doing anything she wants to! Her ninja skills are second to none; and she is brave, clever and resourceful. She has a wonderful friendship with the other animals, showing off playful natures: they work as a brilliant team, helping and supporting each other.

This is an action-packed, fast-paced story with lots of humour and playful use of language which is just perfect for young fans of animal stories or humorous adventures, and would also be a great read aloud either in the classroom or at home.

Thank you to Hachette Children’s Group and Fritha Lindqvist for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Karolina awoke in her new world with a glass heart. It was a heart that felt as if both roses and their thorns grew within it, for it held all the happiness and sorrow she had ever experienced in the Land of the Dolls. When she moved, it rattled against the glossy wood of her chest panel.

Any ideas?

This has been on my radar for a while, so when I saw it in a local bookshop, I just had to snap it up. This sounds like such an intriguing read: a mix of magic and history!

Goodreads Synopsis

In the land of dolls, there is magic.
In the land of humans, there is war.
Everywhere there is pain.
But together there is hope.

Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter–that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.